Emmys Analysis: It May Have Taken A Pandemic To Do It, But This Was An Awards Show For The Ages
September 20, 2020 9:09pm
By Pete Hammond
Awards Columnist/Chief Film Critic@DeadlinePete
Some things never change. Here we are at the end of the 72nd Emmy Awards and once again the story in terms of major wins is HBO, proving it could lose Emmy juggernauts like Game of Thrones and Veep and one year later come back just as strong with wins in Best Drama Series for Succession, and Limited Series for Watchmen, plus on top of that pulling off an upset win making Zendaya the youngest winner ever in Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Euphoria, a year-old show few thought would be remembered at Emmy time.
Of course, HBO is sharing the glory on this night with Pop TV and the absolute rout in the comedy categories, with all seven of those wins going to Schitt’s Creek, a comeback story like no other in its sixth and final season. The irony, as I have previously noted (and did again in tonight’s live blog), is that the series probably owes some of this success to Netflix, which picked up reruns of its earlier seasons. That certainly led to a much bigger audience discovering the brilliant series, which after that exposure landed a few nominations last season and the whole boatload of them this year. Eugene Levy in his Comedy Series acceptance did acknowledge Netflix. It was a similar kind of boost the streamer gave a few years ago to AMC’s Breaking Bad, and it engineered the same result for that series.
The sad fact for Netflix, which came in with a leading 160 nominations this year for 52 different shows, is that they leave this Emmy night with only two wins on the Primetime broadcast (they won another 19 over the course of this week’s Creative Arts ceremonies), once again for Julia Garner’s supporting turn as the feisty Ruth on Ozark and one for direction for the limited series Unorthodox. That’s one less than last year on the big Emmy broadcast.
In terms of streamers, it was a largely unimpressive showing tonight with little to shout about for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Normal People, and nothing for Amazon’s nomination-leading series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (although that did pick up some tech awards at Creative Arts). Disney+ had seven wins at the Creative Arts but missed out, predictably, for Drama Series for its freshman series The Mandalorian. Apple TV+, in its first Emmy outing, actually nearly tied Netflix tonight when Billy Crudup took Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for its marquee series The Morning Show. That brand new streamer spent a lot on its first Emmy campaign and probably should be happy just to have gotten on the board against stiff competition.
I do get a little tired of a lot of the same shows that seem to win year after year in other categories, like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Saturday Night Live and the like. Comedy Central had put a lot of effort into trying to get a seminal season for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah the big Emmy win for Variety Talk Series, but HBO just ran over them with Oliver again. Comedy Central probably shouldn’t complain as its Daily Show With Jon Stewart won for something like a decade. Academy voters do tend to repeat, and though Television Academy membership has expanded, the voters are pretty much the same.
It is nice to see, however, after Jharrel Jerome’s Lead Actor in a Limited Series win last year for When They See Us, and now Zendaya’s in Euphoria, that the Academy is not ageist and not averse to rewarding new generations.
As for the show itself, it is a damn shame the Emmys take their own show out of eligibility to actually win Emmys. With the Herculean technological logistics involved, the gutsy decisions by producers Jimmy Kimmel, Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart and their teams to really make the effort, this was one of the best Emmy shows ever, and in fact stands up I think the some of the best awards shows period. The technical snafus were almost non-existent, and that, considering they were dealing with 130 selfie camera feeds from around the world, is no small feat. The In Memoriam segment and the Tyler Perry Governors Award both knocked it out of the park; Mark Ruffalo (with passion and purpose) and Jesse Armstrong (with his “Un-thank yous” to Donald and Boris) were highlights; and among the presenters Jennifer Aniston gets MVP (especially with that half-a-Friends reunion).
I said months ago that COVID-19 might actually force the Television Academy to rethink the Emmys for the better and create a broadcast that walked right out on the ledge of being a trainwreck. They didn’t look back and produced a fun, lively, vibrant Emmys for the ages, certainly one that will be remembered. And Kimmel, no stranger to hosting this kind of thing, topped himself, proving a host is a very good thing to have. I suspect the Oscars are going to be looking at the Emmys for guidance unless a miracle cure for the coronavirus is on the way sooner than we, if not Trump, thinks, and the Motion Picture Academy should look no further than what Kimmel, obviously a past Oscar show host, and Hudlin, a past Oscar show producer, have pulled off with a very competent production team in a very challenging situation. The KIA Emmy statuette delivery bits were another brilliant touch, especially when you consider the dreary Creative Arts shows the Academy put on all week, showing how not to do awards shows in the midst of a pandemic.
And the Emmy voters, other than some of the tried-and-true repeat winners mentioned above, can also pat themselves on the back for recognizing winners of the quality of Schitt’s Creek, Succession and Watchmen. After last year’s Emmys, when something that might have been considered out of left field like Fleabag dominated, this is a trend toward being pretty cool that is nice to see.